The appointment of Duncan Ferguson to manage Everton, initially (and perhaps entirely) for one game has been met with mixed reviews from Everton supporters. Some have rightly pointed to a lack of experience and demonstrable expertise to fill the role. He has served under 4 consecutive managers, with only 1 being able to say they have fulfilled the brief provided to them. It is not a ringing endorsement for the former striker. For others there seems to be an optimism, in part generated from his undoubted love for the club and cult hero status within it. This particular sentiment is only aided by eventual removal of a manager who the majority of the fans had lost faith in.
The task for Ferguson himself is an extremely challenging one. He has had less than 48 hours between the announcement being made and the game on Saturday being ready to kick off (I make it just over 41 hours). In modern money he has the opportunity to have a couple of training sessions at most with the players, which must encompass any strategic work for tomorrow’s game. Given how open the team were against Liverpool, and that they are coming off a run of 3 consecutive defeats this is an extremely challenging start for any manager, particular someone taking their first game.
It is perhaps because of those factors I am not sure we will necessarily see the multitude of changes and as radical an approach as perhaps sections of the fan base may want to see for this game. It may be that one or two of the younger players are included within the 18 man squad, but I wouldn’t anticipate enormous tactical changes or changes in personnel. The hope will be that perhaps there is a change in attitude amongst certain players and the team may have better balance. Perhaps the best we can hope for is a mixture of a different voice, allied to a partisan home crowd could give the players an extra 10% in effort which at times has been missing.
While on the face of it the appointment can only logically lead to the conclusion that Ferguson is grossly under qualified and any problems Silva may have had are unlikely to be immediately solved by a far more inexperienced coach, Ferguson does have some advantages and positives going for him. He is a uniquely popular figure amongst the supporters and you would posit that the home advantage will be far greater on Saturday than under Marco Silva. The hope will be that some of this can filter onto the pitch, and a beleaguered group of players may be uplifted by the positivity.
More broadly there is a trend of greater numbers of younger, less experienced coaches taking up roles at clubs where they have a strong affinity. Manchester United and Chelea have both handed the role of full time manager to former players with unspectacular cv’s, currently Arsenal are being managed by former player Ljungberg. Logically speaking none of Lampard, Ljungberg nor Solskjaer have a cv that can match up to Sarri, Mourinho or Emery yet Lampard appears to have settled better than Sarri and Solskjaer made a fantastic initial start to his career at Manchester United. Ferguson is no less qualified relative to Silva than the men named above are to who they followed.
While the club have initially given Ferguson the game on Saturday, a positive result may lead to him being given a small number of games to potentially prove his viability for the managerial spot until the end of the season. To a certain extent you sense the club have recognized there is little hope of Silva being able to turn the ship around, and the appointment of Ferguson feels something of a punt out of the blue. In an ideal world he can have an immediate impact and lead the club away from any fears of relegation.
There is some credence to this theory. While Solskjaer is now desperately struggling in his job as Manchester United manager it is worth remembering the immediate impact he had on a club who had grown wearisome and desperate under their previous manager. On arrival Manchester United had 26 points from 16 games (picking up 1.625 points per game) and he would go on to pick up 32 points from the next 12 games. This was an increase of 64% on what had gone before. A similar return upturn in fortunes for Everton would see a return of between 18-19 points from the next 12 fixtures and would take Everton close to a figure of safety. This remains very much the dream scenario for Everton but gives some idea of the best case scenario they may be looking at if he starts well.
While it is unlikely it cannot be completely discounted that some upturn in form can be achieved. Ferguson failure with successive manager is also a source for potential strength. He knows each players strengths, weaknesses and potential fragility perhaps better than anyone at the club. The question is then how far he will be able to utilize this knowledge and how effectively this can be done.
Likewise you sense that a key ingredient for any of the young coaches now prospering is that they were significant characters in their own right. This is certainly the case with Ferguson who is a significant character and we are led to believe a talented coach from his time with the under 18’s, but one that has not been particularly effectively used over the last 4-5 years.
Within all of this there may well be a chance that a suitable candidate may be appointed on Monday morning. Given how little information we receive out of the club and the various different reports emerging out of Goodison it is difficult to concretely maintain any outcome with any degree of certainty. My gut feeling tells me Ferguson is currently managing the club as there is no agreement on appointing David Moyes at board level, and he may allow Marcel Brands more time to try to find an alternative.
I don’t believe we are imminently close to any specific manager and again my hunch is that if Ferguson can win at the weekend they may allow the situation to continue where he remains in charge to see if some momentum can be drawn. While there has been much talk of a difficult December, after Chelsea you would have to concede the hardest part of it has been navigated. Manchester United, Arsenal and Burnley all look very beatable as things stand. Ferguson will hope to pass an initial audition to be given the opportunity to do so. How far that opportunity will be extended to him remains unclear.